Only a few weeks into fall semester, several students have experienced incidents of harassment and assault while in Waterville. These incidents seem to be occurring with more frequency than in previous years, and many students do not feel safe in Waterville or on campus.
Many of these incidents took place while students were running or walking alone to or from parking lots either downtown or on campus.
Responding to an incident, in which a student was approached in a threatening manner by three men wearing masks, Bob Williams, Director of Security, emailed the college community, urging students to exercise caution while in Waterville, especially when alone or at night.
In the email, Williams suggested some safety reminders for students. His suggestions include letting people know when you run, your route, running in groups of two or more, staying alert to your surroundings, and downloading the ColbySafe app.
Lucinda Harden `24 had a similarly threatening experience while running alone near campus. She was approached by a matte black truck painted with white symbols.
“I was on a run I’ve done many times… and about halfway through the run, a black truck passed me,” said Harden. “I was kind of suspicious of it at first… Then the car stopped a few hundred feet in front of me. I thought it was strange that they stopped in the middle of the road so I stopped too. Then they put their gear into neutral and started revving the engine so their wheels were spinning and they were kicking up dirt. I started to get a little freaked out because… at the back of my mind was the story of the student who had encountered some people in a similar location. Then the car started to turn around and I knew something was wrong so I turned around and ran into the woods and waited for a friend to come pick me up.”
Harden feels that this incident has affected how safe she feels in Waterville and has made her change her normal routine.
“I definitely won’t be running by myself in Waterville anytime soon,” Harden said. “I also think I’ve just become more wary of my surroundings.”
Harden has spoken to security about the incident and plans to meet with them soon.
A student who wishes to remain anonymous was assaulted while walking with two other people in the Head of the Falls parking lot earlier this semester.
“On the first Monday back at school before classes started, on September 5th, I was walking with two of my roommates to one of their cars that was parked in Head of the Falls,” said the student. “It was late, about 9:15pm when it happened, and we were walking past this man who we had spotted as looking pretty sketchy. When he passed me since I was on the side closer to the road and he walked next to me, he slapped my butt quite hard and yelled boom. The man was wearing a blue hoodie and looked to be in his 30s, but it was super dark and I hadn’t really had a reason to notice him until it happened. My roommates [and I] who saw all kind of froze for a second and when we turned around he was running away and turned onto Appleton St.”
This experience made the student feel especially unsafe because it happened despite walking in a group. They called Security and filed a police report after the incident but didn’t feel that those avenues were particularly beneficial to them.
“Nothing felt super helpful,” they said. “Security suggested walking down Temple St. instead of Appleton St., and the policeman suggested that I always walk in a group, which I was.”
This student also urged people, especially women, to be aware that incidents like this can happen when walking downtown.
In another incident, Ellie Page `24 was followed by a strange man while walking through Hillside parking lot at night.
“I got to campus around 10:30 pm and I was driving my car into the Hillside parking lot,” said Page. “I noticed a car pull in behind me and it started doing loops in the parking lot. The car would pull into one level of Hillside and pull into a space and backout and spin around to go into another level and do that again… I sat in my car for a little bit because I wasn’t really sure what this person was doing. They kept driving around, and I finally got out of my car and started walking towards the Hillside. Then I stopped and looked back and he saw me standing there, stopped, got out of his car and started running towards me. I turned around and ran back to AMS and called security. They said they would come to address it and I never heard anything from them after that…”
Page feels that this experience has changed the way she navigates campus.
“It was an eye opening experience because I’ve always felt comfortable and safe walking around campus at all hours,” said Page. “Since that event I’ve definitely been more warry, especially leaving the Hillside lot when it’s dark out. It would be useful if they put more lights or cameras in that lot.”
Everyone deserves to be safe and feel comfortable, especially when doing daily, unavoidable activities like walking to their car or around their town. However, the reality is that students are not always safe in Waterville or on campus. Students should follow Bob Williams’s safety advice and stay alert, especially when alone or at night.
~ Veronica McIntyre `24